What A Waste: The Broken Technological Wonder of Plastic

Dino Dans
Can we get rid of plastic overnight? The short answer is no.

A Revolutionary Technology

Plastic was once barely a part of our daily lives. Today, almost everything is partly made of plastic. From our houses, cars, apparels, and furniture, to our computers and phones. With lightweight, durable and adaptable traits, plastic can be mass-produced cheaply. However, it didn’t take long for us to realize that this groundbreaking material is piling up to become hard to-get-rid-of trash.

A 400 Year Disaster

What once was a wonder of technology is now spiraling out of control. Since its invention in the early 1950s, an estimated 8.3 billion tons of plastic have been produced. We use it everyday to carry our groceries but know very little how it’s being disposed. 9%was recycled, 12% was incinerated, and 79% fills our lands and water bodies.

An estimated 8 million tons of plastic ends up in the ocean annually. At this rate, there will be more plastics than fishes in our oceans in 30 years.

It doesn’t end there. As plastic is very durable, it takes 400-1,000 years to biodegrade. It is now invading our food and water source, taking over our environment and livelihood, and can even be found inside our bodies.

Replacing Plastic

Finding plastic alternatives is another problem of its own. Currently, the alternative materials we use have a higher environmental implication. A 2018 study by the Danish Government suggests that making a single-use plastic bag produces far lower carbon emission compared to a conventional cotton bag. You would need to use that same cotton bag 7,100 times to make an environmental impact. Which means if you do your groceries every other week, you will have to use that same bag for 273 years.

Global Investment for a Global Problem

Developed countries investing in disposal infrastructures in developing countries is as important as fighting plastic waste at home. The rapid rise of industrialization in Africa and Asia in the last decades, inadvertently caused the majority of the plastic waste in our oceans. 90%of plastic waste in the oceans come through just 10 rivers from both continents.

Banning plastics altogether might not be the immediate solution we need. Instead, we can use human innovation to our advantage and make plastics better and environmentally viable.